profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities

No. 47 in a continuing series

Caricatures by

David Lewis

Bill Gallinghouse

Vice President of Business Development and Marketing, ETC

Even if you listen very closely, you may still not detect the New Orleans in Bill Gallinghouse's New Jersey-sounding accent. Few people know that Bill Gallinghouse started life in deep-south Cajun country, raised on boiled crabs and crawfish, far from the glare of the entertainment lighting world. That's because Bill's destiny and accent were altered forever when his family moved to New Jersey, during high school, and he had to add one fateful class to fulfill school requirements.

Attending a high school so close to New York City meant going to school with kids whose parents had show business connections, and the school's theater department and TV studio was full of Broadway and television hand-me-downs. A kid could go gadget happy here and Bill's informal apprenticeship was filled with the requisite learning adventures: he was once almost suspended for tapping enterprisingly into the school's transformers while installing a new lighting system in the TV studio.

After high school, Bill went on to New Jersey's William Paterson University, working bleary-eyed at night as Master Electrician for the Coach Light, a New York equity theater. But always drawn back to the south, he packed up and transferred to Loyola University in New Orleans to finish his broadcasting degree, where he racked up experience at the university's own commercial television station.

After Loyola, New York beckoned again, and he returned to the metropolis to serve as Master Electrician for the famed Julliard School. Here he worked with a stream of aspiring stars - Robin Williams and Christopher Reeves among them - but the most pivotal encounter there was the friendship he struck up with his young boss, Mark Vassallo - an intense New Yorker, later longtime colleague and business partner. In 1983, Bill and Mark were already showing their lifelong obsession for cutting-edge technology, purchasing a Strand LightPalette for Julliard from legendary New York lighting salesman and expert Sonny Sonnenfeld. Meeting Sonny was a revelation, and Bill and Mark eventually left Julliard to work for him, learning the ropes of sales and pavement pounding.

By 1987, the neophytes had achieved so much enlightenment they were ready to go on their own, bravely opening a new rep company in New York City, called Technolight and they became the first manufacturer's representative for ETC, working the whole New York/Jersey territory.

ETC founder and CEO Fred Foster, appreciating the New York rental market's newfound respect for his lighting, was also starting to look to expansion and acquiring more systems offerings. Fred had been musing casually about a small, but impressive dimmer manufacturer in Rochester, New York, called LMI. One night over frozen vodkas at Sammy's Romanian Restaurant on New York's lower east side, Bill and Mark baited Fred in their typical city fashion: "Why don't you just buy the @#$%ing company?!" Fred, who had only that night been introduced to the concept of frozen vodka, retorted with equal inebriated bravado: "I'll buy LMI if you agree to come work with me."

By 1990 Bill had moved to Middleton to work with Fred at ETC headquarters. Mark followed a couple of years later. Along with ETC's Mike Griffith, they made a formidable executive sales team, stepping up the ETC sales effort like never before.

By 1996, Bill was going backstage globally, heading to London to run the ETC office and help direct ETC's ongoing European expansion efforts. ETC was branching into northern Europe as well, with a new office in Copenhagen and plans for a southern European arm in Rome. Business was flourishing. The schedule was hard on a private life though, and by 1998, Bill and family were starting to long for home. PRG beckoned Bill with a new job in New Jersey and further challenges, and Bill left ETC - for a little while.

But ETC missed him, and he missed ETC, and he returned in 2001 to the role now of Vice President of Business Development and Marketing. Bill now divides his time and residences between ETC's deep-Broadway office on 9th Avenue in New York City; ETC's headquarters in Middleton; and far-flung international airports and locales. For the last two years he has traveled throughout Europe, extending ETC's business ventures, forging new relationships. He was instrumental during the process of ETC's acquisition of the German lighting company transtechnik Lichtsysteme in May, and he continues to watch over the current transition.

In between life on planes, Bill just savors being an ordinary soccer dad in New Jersey, whacking the ball around the field with his boys, Davis, 10, and Charlie, 8. And on rare holidays he loves to escape southward again. He opens up his family's old little beach house on the Mississippi coast, goes fishing in the warm Gulf light, and grills up some speckled trout or redfish for dinner.

Look out for the next subject in our Profile series...

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